Over the years, development across the ASEAN region has been steadily allowing more and more people the ability to climb upwards on the ladder of success. With increasing affluence and spending power comes the desire for products not normally found locally. A combination of an aging, influential population, and the rise of a new generation looking to take their place is leading to healthcare products and services to becoming a top priority for many.
The framework is already in place, with some areas in ASEAN already boasting world class facilities, and while some of the equipment and products are produced locally, a vast majority are still imported. Seeing an opportunity to inject their expertise into the supply chain, Yusen Logistics has made sizeable investments into the healthcare and pharmaceuticals market in ASEAN.
For a deeper look into their development plans, we had the pleasure of speaking with part of the healthcare and pharmaceuticals logistics team both regionally and locally in Thailand, Dr. Richard Gibson, FCILT, MCIPS Head of Healthcare Vertical Asia Pacific; Mr. Chris Harding, Senior General Manager Regional Business Development South Asia and Oceania Region; Ms. Siripen Somsirikanrjanakoon, Deputy Manager Business Development Group; and Ms. Sudarat Dathratwibul, Assistant General Manager Sales Customer Service Group (SCSG).
Yusen Logistics has already carved out quite a large market presence in Europe over the past 20 years, becoming well known for many of the freight forwarding services, especially amongst healthcare and pharmaceuticals logistics providers. However, taking their business to the next level would require further expansion to truly become a global force for healthcare and pharmaceutical logistics. In the USA, their recent opening of a branch in Chicago was a major milestone for the team, as they had entered into an affluent, albeit fiercely competitive market. Not shying away from the challenge, Yusen Logistics sought out further opportunities in a region they were already extremely familiar with in the other verticals, the ASEAN region, continuing their efforts to offer global service coverage for healthcare and pharmaceutical products.
Their headquarters in Singapore serves as home base for the ASEAN region and is where both Mr. Harding and Dr. Gibson are stationed. This doesn’t mean they don’t get out of the office, to the contrary, they are often traveling to countries around the region and it is here in Bangkok where we caught up with them and members of their local Thai team to speak with them further on the development of their healthcare vertical.
Dr. Gibson began by explaining, “I’ve worked at Yusen Logistics in the UK for many years as the unit director for Northern Europe. However, due to a booming population and increased demand for healthcare throughout the ASEAN region, I was given the opportunity to come here to help set up a healthcare business unit. We’ve been opening a number of facilities, but our ultimate dream and vision is to have points of coverage worldwide, and the opening of this entry point into Asia is another milestone for us. Currently, much of the work I’m doing is based around product development and working with Chris’s team.”
Mr. Harding said, “I’ve been with the NYK group for over 28 years, and I am in charge of a number of areas of business development for Yusen in South East Asia & Oceania. With regard to the Healthcare industry vertical, we can offer a wide range of solutions; from the transportation of raw materials for manufacturers, to delivery of finished pharmaceuticals and medical equipment to distributors, hospitals, and pharmacies. We’ve been honing our skills in this field for years now throughout Europe, and it isn’t something anyone can just jump into. There are barriers to entry and in order to have the correct competencies required in place, the company has to make the appropriate investment in people, product and/or asset. Because of our experience, we’ve been able take our global knowledge and apply this in combination with our ASEAN capability and logistics activities.”
For specialized and expensive pharmaceuticals, not just anyone can handle this cargo. While some may see it as being able to be lumped alongside perishables, there is a distinct difference to the needs of these products. There are certificates in the industry that help to ensure that the people handling this sensitive cargo are well trained and qualified, like IATA’s Center of Excellence for Independent Validators in Pharmaceutical Logistics (CEIV) and Good Distribution Practices (GDP) certificates.
“We’ve taken a sizeable investment into GDP healthcare training,” said Mr. Harding. “For this region, we actually just had our second training session in Kuala Lumpur. This training and business development enables our team the ability to speak the language of GDP with customers. The need to offer a consistent service is imperative for our business.”
Dr. Gibson said, “In Europe, we operate an asset light control tower solution with qualified suppliers ensuring the whole process is GDP certified. We’re developing the same thing here, and while every country in Asia has slightly different standards, most of them are voluntary. However, we value what being GDP compliant means and so do many of our customers. We take the pragmatic view that all of our supply chains should be GDP compliant.”
For anyone that’s traveled abroad, the difference between your home country and another can become readily apparent. What works in one country may not work in another. Standards are important to keep, but adapting them to the local market is crucial for long term success. Having local knowledge and understanding is key, and is why Yusen Logistics is investing within the company to assemble a team dedicated and knowledgeable in all aspects of healthcare and pharmaceuticals logistics.
Ms. Dathratwibul has been working over 12 years for Yusen Logistics Thailand, and has been in logistics, sales functions, and import customs clearance roles. Her experiences in customs clearance especially are key for what Yusen Logistics is looking to accomplish as she says, “Having intimate knowledge of the ins and outs of importing products into Thailand is where I see we can bring real value to customer’s supply chains. With a great majority of medicine coming from outside Thailand, knowing what the constraints are for imports is extremely important. We’re number one in Thailand for customs brokerage and clearance; it’s our specialty and is an area we can service well.”
Ms. Somsirikanrjanakoon has been working at Yusen Logistics Thailand for 5 years in solutions and sales positions. Her current role has evolved into being a healthcare representative and she says, “We have many strong positions in the Thai market, but because we are new to the healthcare sector we have been exploring what areas we can add the most value to in this sector. Currently, the services we’re looking to excel at is in warehousing and the international freight forwarding segments. Our strengths lie in our customs clearance ability and inherent flexibility. Be it transportation by air, sea or land, we can get these products into Thailand smoothly because we know the rules and regulations like the back of our hand. Our facilities here, both the cool chain and standard warehousing we own, are also a differentiator for our service, as well as our distribution and trucking network. We’re also actively looking to partner with others as well to help complete parts of their supply chain.”
Dr. Gibson said, “In the end, it’s really all about local knowledge and understanding things very well. With an attentive and caring staff behind us here, we stand to offer an abundance of value to our customers’ businesses. The quality and bespoke client solutions we can provide are key for us going forward into this exciting market.”